How To Start Snowshoe Running


One of the beautiful things about running is that it is not one, single thing. There are many different types of running, and many different ways to be a runner. Furthermore, you’re free to bounce back and forth between types of running at a whim. You can go run on the road running, trails, track, do races from 60m up to 200 mile are more.

If you live in an area that gets proper snow in the winter, you may think that your running needs to take a break. But have you considered learning how to start snowshoe running?

Yes, it’s a thing! Technically, the mechanism is the same as running on the road or trail. But snowshoe running is a little more challenging because you’ve got more resistance and you’re engaging your muscles a bit differently.

Here’s all you need to know about this fun winter sport!

What is Snowshoe Running?

Snowshoeing (snowshoe running) is a winter sport. It’s actually a professional sport and is governed by the World Snowshoe Federation.

If you’ve ever been snowshoeing recreationally, you have a good idea of what snowshoe running is about. It’s pretty similar, just faster; like the difference between walking normally and running when it isn’t snowing.

Snowshoe running is done with smaller snowshoes, and when you do it in a controlled setting, it’s usually on packed or groomed snow that’s easier to run on. If you want to just do it yourself, it may take a lot of getting used to if you’re running in areas where the snow hasn’t been groomed.

Interestingly, snowshoe running is an official sport at the Special Olympics and the Arctic Winter Games!

How to Get Started

Snowshoe running is fun and interesting, but you may not know how to begin. Here are some tips to help you get off to the best start.

Get a Feel for the Sport

Get used to the feel of snowshoeing before you invest in your own snowshoes. It’s a good idea to rent or borrow a pair from a friend before buying your own, so you can get the feel of them first.

Snowshoes are like normal shoes. There are different models, and each will feel slightly different on your feet. It’s best to try a few different models to find what feels most comfortable.

Borrowing from a friend will help you get used to the feeling of running with snowshoes on. But it’s still advisable to try at least one other pair so you can compare the feeling of the two and see what works better for you before you buy your own.

Leave Your Snowshoes Outside

When you’ve bought your own pair of snowshoes, it’s tempting to treat them like normal running shoes and keep them safe inside the house.

But although it may seem illogical to leave your equipment out in the snow, it’s best to leave your snowshoes outside. There’s a good reason for this, though!

If you keep your snowshoes inside, the metal will warm up slightly. When you get outside, snow sticks to the warm metal, which makes your snowshoeing experience more difficult.

When you leave your snowshoes outside, the metal stays the same temperature as the air. The snow won’t stick to the frame, and you’ll have an easier experience.

Learn on an Open, Flat Piece of Ground

Snowshoeing is just like running. For beginners, it’s best to start on a piece of ground that’s flat and easy. A local golf course (that allows access) or public park ball field near you would be a perfect place for a beginner snowshoer to practice.

Once you’ve gotten used to the motion and the muscle activation of snowshoeing, you can start to practice on more challenging terrain. Remember, you don’t want to hurt yourself when you’re still learning! It’s best to start easy.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up

Just because you’ve got snowshoes on your feet doesn’t mean you don’t need to warm up like you would when going for a normal run. Do a slower lap to get your muscles warm, while concentrating on maintaining good form and breathing properly.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because you’re physically fit and an adept runner, snowshoeing will be easy. It requires a different kind of effort than normal running, and even the fittest runners are likely to need some time to get used to running in the snow.

Neglecting your warm-up can lead to injury, just like on the road!

Practice Good Form

Make sure you’re still keeping good form when you’ve got snowshoes on your feet. Keep good posture, and make sure you’re wearing the right shoes for your feet.

It’s also a good idea to understand how different types of snow are different to run in/on. Packed snow that’s somewhat icy will be fast, while fresh powder will be noticeably slower.

Don’t judge your effort by your pace. Concentrate on form, muscle activation, and breathing. You should be able to feel that you’re getting a good workout if you focus on these things.

Take an Extra Set of Clothes

Snowshoeing can be a messy and wet experience! It’s always advisable to take a set of warm, dry clothing with you if you aren’t heading straight back home after your snowshoeing.

What is the Difference in Running Form?

You still need to pay attention to your form when doing snowshoe running, but it’s slightly different from your regular running form.

Snowshoes are heavier than regular running shoes. They also have much larger physical dimensions, so you need to compensate for that in your stride. Lifting your knees higher (and swinging your arms more) is necessary to make sure your snowshoes are clearing the ground each step.

To keep your balance on rugged, unstable, and possibly slippery snowy terrain, you’ll engage your core more without even realizing it.

Why is it a Lot Harder than Regular Running?

When you run on the road, or even on a trail, there’s little resistance. You’re working against air, possibly wind, and the resistance the road or ground puts out against your feet, which isn’t that much.

But when you’re running on or through snow, the resistance is significantly more. You’ll need to exert more strength to push against the snow, which means your heart rate increases to get more blood to muscles so you can do the work.

You’ll also most likely feel sore and stiff after snowshoeing. The location of the muscle pain shoes you which new muscles you are recruiting when you strap on the snowshoes.

What Should I Practice When Snowshoe Running?

If you’re serious about snowshoeing as a form of running, you’ll have to put some practice into it in order to improve your form and your performance.

Put particular effort into:

  • Running up and down hills
  • Dealing with flat, packed snow
  • Learning to run efficiently through fresh powder
  • Running on rougher terrain
  • Dealing with curves in the terrain

Gear Tips

To make the most of your snowshoe running, here are some tips about gearing up properly!

Know Your Snowshoes

Like regular running shoes, not all snowshoes are created equal. Some are made for hiking snowy terrain, others are made to be effective in powder. Certain snowshoes are made for running or racing.

Learn the difference and decide which is best for you and your needs. As mentioned above, it could be a great idea to try out a bunch of different ones before settling on the type that best suits you.

Just as a running store is a great place for information about running shoes, a winter sports store will be able to answer all your questions about snow shoeshoes.

Use Waterproof Trail Shoes

Of course, you’ll still need to wear a pair of normal shoes when snowshoeing. Try to wear a pair of waterproof trail shoes, if possible. That will prevent your feet from getting wet and cold, which can ruin your experience!

If you only have traditional mesh running shoes, you can cover the mesh with duct tape to prevent snow, water, and sneaky breezes from getting in and freezing your toes.

Use a Gaiter

Powering your way through snow can kick up a lot of powder, which will quickly find its way into the top of your shoes. Even if you are wearing waterproof trail shoes, traveling through deep snow will result in wet feet unless you are wearing gaiters.

Wind-resistant, water-resistant gear is a good idea as an outer layer. It helps the snow to slide off quickly without melting and soaking through your clothes and gear.

Dress the Right Way

Apart from wearing a neck gaiter to keep your face and neck from becoming soaked, a pair of warm tights and winter socks are essential. Thermal tights will keep your lower half warm, and we recommend merino wool socks, as they’re thermoregulating.

Don’t forget that although you’re in the snow, you’ll need sunscreen too! UV rays can reflect off the snow and cause bad sunburn. Don’t neglect this! Wearing sunglasses can be a good idea too, to prevent snow blindness.

Lastly, a hat and gloves will round out your protective gear and keep you as warm as possible.

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Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.